Wear Your Color Wheel… and Get Your Mornings Back!

After years of ruining my favorite clothes with paint and clay, I decided to simplify to avoid the frustration and disappointment. No more frantic mornings debating what to wear for me!

Instead of wearing a small smock over my outfit, I’d be smocked from head to toe from now on.

If you teach little ones, you know any exposed area – and I mean ANY –  becomes a bulls-eye for messy hands. I decided on Dickie’s coveralls. Yes, the one-piece get-up worn by factory and road workers. My challenge, make the functional choice look cool. After purchasing several coveralls, I used fabric paint and patches to decorate each set differently.

One sports a color wheel on the back; another is strewn with patches of famous works of art. Each coverall set has its own look. Now, each day I slip on leggings and a camisole, throw on whatever coveralls are handy, and off I go!

You can get ready in less than five minutes and be ready for whatever your day – and students – throw at you…literally.

uniform that says "I love art."

If the full body coveralls seem like too much of a commitment, you can try your own version of a uniform or a capsule wardrobe.

Many successful people have embraced the idea. A capsule wardrobe is a limited number of timeless, go-to pieces that can be augmented to work in any season.

If you are debating adopting either a uniform or a capsule wardrobe, consider the following advantages…

  1. Make fewer decisions each day.
    How great would it be to have one less decision to make each day? Waking up to don a predetermined uniform allows you more mental space to use for a higher purpose. Plus, later on in the day – when you are on your hands and knees tying shoelaces – you’ll also be glad you don’t have to worry about the length of your skirt or the angle of your blouse. The freedom of movement you gain is astounding and freeing.
  2. Meaningless side conversations about my wardrobe are a thing of the past!
    Art teachers generally have style. We are aesthetically in-tune people. Coming from the world of fashion, at first, I missed exercising my fashion sense each day. However, as time wore on and I noticed how much less time I spent addressing questions about my wardrobe, I couldn’t deny the uniform was a win. Now, my students focus on the art-themed smocks instead of admiring my clothing mindlessly. My uniform is now a teaching tool.
  3. Waste less time and energy while saving money!
    Preparing a wardrobe requires time and energy. Shopping, tailoring, pressing, folding, sorting, and coordinating are tedious and never-ending chores. Opting for a uniform allows you to wash fewer loads of laundry, shop far less frequently, and devote less time and money to a work wardrobe. As a bonus, I’ve found I now have more to spend on nicer items I can wear worry-free on the weekends and in my personal time.
  4. Animated or illustrated characters have been doing it forever… and we call them ICONIC.
    We are all comforted by the fact that Winnie the Pooh is always rocking his tummy-bearing red crop-top. Plus, Winnie gets to sleep in a few extra minutes instead of ironing a button down! Couldn’t you use a few extra minutes in your morning? Alice Gregory, a New York writer, embraced the idea of a uniform saying, “Wearing a uniform is … a way of asserting your status as a protagonist. This is the reason why characters in picture books never change their clothes: Children—like adults, if they’d only admit it—crave continuity.”

Every year, my school has a day when students become their favorite teacher and must take over their job. Last year, my “student teacher” surprised me by buying a set of her own identical coveralls and painting them to match mine!

Lee and student in matching outfits

It was fantastic and reminded me that a uniform is not necessarily dull. It can be a sign that you’ve arrived at a place where you are comfortable, confident, and even inspiring.

Do you currently wear a uniform? What does it consist of?

Would you consider a uniform and/or capsule wardrobe?

Lee Ten Hoeve


Lee is an energetic PreK - 8th-grade art educator in an urban district. She’s passionate about making art a core subject and employing curiosity to engage learners. 


  • Abby Schukei

    This is fantastic! I grew up going to private school and have longed for a uniform ever since, maybe this is just what I need!

    • Lee Ten Hoeve

      Do it Abby! You’ll never look back. Thanks for commenting.

  • Ms Jamie

    I think we need more photos of your coveralls!

    • Lee Ten Hoeve

      Hi Ms Jamie,

      Thanks for asking for more photos. I’m going to work on some new designs this summer and maybe I’ll do another post with new photos early next school year. My current smocks are really beat up after a very busy year of painting and clay! They have seen better days.

  • Sherri

    Love the coveralls! I wear a grungy apron and jeans everyday! I think I’ll try making some artsy aprons, or a “artify” a work shirt. I prefer two pieces to the ensemble for the fast and furious run to the RR! Ha!

  • Lee Ten Hoeve

    Hi Sherri,

    It’s funny but I didn’t consider that element until after I committed to the coveralls. I wish I’d had your foresight. I’ve been considering buying some scrubs and decking those out.
    I’m sure whatever you decide to do – artsy aprons or shirt – your students will love it and it will simplify things for you. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  • Sarah Pascual

    I work at a school in which the students wear uniforms, so it was only natural for me to adopt one as well. I have a polo shirt of just about every color on the color wheel and I rotate through them. I have five pairs of pants (kaki, corduroy) and three pairs of capris that I bought at a thrift store to rotate through. I don’t have to worry if I get anything on theme because I only paid $4-5 for each of them. It’s great, not having to worry if I get paint on anything or having to remember to put a smock on.

  • Lee Ten Hoeve

    Hey Sarah,

    Sounds great! Thanks for sharing.

  • lux_arts

    Genius idea! I’m going to look into doing something similar. Thanks, Lee!

  • Lee Ten Hoeve

    So glad to hear it! Share what you decide to do if you’d like. The more ideas, the better.

  • Cathleen Cramer

    Love this so much! Where did you get your awesome sequins patches?

  • maddigab

    Love, Love this idea! I’m going to check into the coveralls as well as the scrubs. Thanks!!!

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  • Betsy Glass

    I Love this idea too. And aren’t schools kind of a factory, and we the factory workers, turning out excellent products: Kids who have skills and tools and who love to learn?!?!?!

  • Denise August

    I use full length denim house coats from a catalog called Northstyle. They last for several years. I stuff them with newspaper and pour acrylic paint over the shoulders. I love the patches idea! Going to try that on a new one I just bought.

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